Writing RFPs That Will Win More Sales (part 2)

Posted on 06/01/2010 in Sales Management

"Win the ones worth winning.” - John Czepiel

Our new workshop titled Writing a Winning RFP teaches the skills and concepts on how to write a customized Request For Proposal (RFP) that will increase your likelihood of winning more business.  The workshop highlights critical success factors that should be addressed when you respond to RFPs, as well as common mistakes such as writing RFPs that are too lengthy and not client-focused.

What Are the Most Common Mistakes When Writing and Responding to RFPs?  

The three most mistakes made when writing an RFP can be summarized as follows:

  1. The RFP is not tailored for the client, which creates the impression that this client’s key issues and concerns are not understood.
  2. The RFP is too lengthy, which makes it less likely that it will be read in its entirety or understood by the client.
  3. You (or your sales force) are being shopped, and consequently are wasting your time writing an RFP for which you have no chance of success.

Let’s talk briefly about each of these three mistakes.

The RFP is not tailored for the client. You can avoid this mistake by asking questions such as these when you write and review your RFP before sending it to the client:

  • Have we summarized this client’s critical needs and demonstrated how we will meet those needs? If your RFP doesn’t do this, you will not win the business.
  • How well does your RFP pass the "you/us” test? This is something that we teach in the workshop. For simplicity in today’s newsletter, a good rule of thumb is that your RFP should contain more "you-language” (the you refers to the client) and less "us-language” (the us refers to your organization).

Since this is such a common mistake, you will definitely set yourself apart by writing a tailored RFP for each client. Don’t submit an RFP that looks like it is a scripted and canned document.  It sends a message to the client that you haven’t bothered to learn about them and that they aren’t that important.

The RFP is too lengthy.  Most RFPs are too lengthy, which can result in a lot of problems such as: (1) the recipient won’t read the entire RFP; (2) critical information is missed by the client; and, (3) the client can’t remember the key points.  This is one of the reasons why last month’s newsletter recommended that the Executive Overview is so critical. Many decision-makers will not read your entire RFP but will at least read the overview.

We teach in the workshop how to write a compelling Executive Overview.  You also will learn how to shorten the remaining sections of the RFP yet still retain the information that is most likely to help you win the business.  Less is more is a great guideline to follow, especially when paired with what the workshop teaches about the critical information that must be in your RFP, and what information can be eliminated without causing you any problems. 

You (or your sales force) are being shopped.  This mistake is much more prevalent than many sales professionals think, which is well-documented in The Sales Manager’s Success Manual by Wayne Thomas (©2008, AMACOM).  For example, consider these two related points from that book:

  1. A detailed study on Proposal Win rate showed that sales reps are being shopped more than half the time.
  2. If you get an unexpected RFP, assume that you are being shopped. 

The Writing a Winning RFP workshop teaches techniques to help you assess if you are being shopped and what to do about it. 

To say this a little differently — since it takes so much time and effort to write a high-quality RFP, don’t waste your time on RFPs for which you have no chance of success.  As cited in the quotation at the start of this month’s newsletter, you should "…win the ones worth winning” and not waste your time on the others.

Please click on this link to view more detail about the Writing a Winning RFP workshop.  Anyone who participates in the RFP process will benefit from this workshop, including sales professionals, managers, sales support personnel, and marketing.  STAR can also provide coaching to individuals who wish to improve their ability to write and respond to RFPs.